Hopefully, this isn’t the first time you’ve heard of Uncanny X-Force.

You’ve come across X-Force before. Spinning out of the New Mutant title where Cable essentially said “Why you kids still playin’? Let’s get serious about this” and turned the group into a more organized, militaristic team. It might the unofficial start of the “strike-based covert op” teams that are a pretty popular trope nowadays. They hide in the dark, no one knows about them and they use fiercer means than the average murderous superhero.

(Well, not Peter Milligan and Mike Allred’s X-Force, it rocked shit so hard that they had to change the name.)

So, the last incarnation of X-Force, written by Kyle Craig and Chris Yost, wasn’t terrible. I didn’t read the whole run, but I do remember it offering up a lot of violence and fun. It looked a little like this:

The new one, for the most part, looks like this:

So I’m sure you’re saying to yourself — same look, same concept, same red eyes, what separates this new era of X-Force from what came before it? Answer: a lot.

Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force starts under the premise that Wolverine and Archangel (a secondary character in Yost’s XF) decide there are certain threats to mutantkind  that cannot be reasoned with or detained. Simply, some things need to die so others may live.  As stated, this  is a typical “strike-based covert-op” team concept that eventually spins off  most of the established team concepts (e.g. Suicide Squad; Secret Avengers;  IDW’s CVO) but by issue four of UXF it’s apparent that Remender, and initial artist Jerome Opeña, are not into wowing the reader with unjustified twists or character gimmicks.

It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly makes Uncanny X-Force so successful. A good place to start is the de facto front-man of the book Fantomex. One of the few holdovers from Grant Morrison’s New X-Men, the faux-Frenchman’s star has never shone brighter. Look at the other members of the team, you’d think Jean-Phillipe would be bottom-rung, but his smarm, style and fleeting interest in helping a bunch of people he has no real connection are driving impulses and hinge the book’s tension.

Despite Deadpool being a member of the cast, my favorite element of the series is it’s big-picture vision, and roots in Marvel mythology. While I love the individual characters to death, the concept of X-Men really doesn’t hold my interest. Among a handful of thing I dislike about Mutants, one of the most prominent has to be how the X-books feel like they exist in some sub-universe of the Marvel brand. The brass at Marvel feel the same way: Avengers vs X-Men is an obvious attempt to get Cyclops, Rouge, Storm and co closer to the core line. Remender superbly plugs the events of UXF into larger company entities like Celestials, Weapon Plus (Weapon X to those who have been out of the game a while), Apocalypse, Deathlok and so on. It’s a great balance of character work and meaningful plots. The series carries heavy themes, my favorite of which I already mentioned: some things need to die to make way for others. This idea permeates the comic, on both sides of the battle lines.

Due to Marvel’s double shipping scheme, this series comes out at least every four weeks, and sometimes, on successive Wednesdays. Thus, the art team switches every handful of issues, and while it’s not ideal, the House of Ideas does a alright job of keeping great artists in the mix. My main, and probably only, qualm with the series is Remender’s use of Deadpool as nothing but a punching bag and one-liner machine. He’s done a great job on giving meaningful time to all the other cast members but Wade continues to be an afterthought. Simply, he deserves better.

Even with that complaint, the series is by far one of my most anticipated pick-ups. The balance of violent action, great character dynamic and callbacks to both X-Men and (especially)Marvel history gives it wide-range appeal. Even in the recent X-book relaunch post-Schism Uncanny X-Force is the most approachable of all the titles.

Here are a couple nice reads for those who don’t really care about some spoilers and just want to check out whats coming up in the next few months for Uncanny X-Force. Over. the. fucking. top.

- Jamil